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Follow the Author
21 Lessons for the 21st Century Hardcover – 4 September 2018
About the Author
- Publisher : Spiegel & Grau (4 September 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525512179
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525512172
- Dimensions : 16.23 x 3.4 x 24.16 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 69,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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Of the 21 conversation topics in this book I particularly valued those on equality, community, immigration, humility, secularism, truth, meaning and meditation.
Plenty here to enrich my ongoing conversations with my clients, colleagues, friends and family.
Perhaps the big topic will be from a line about three quarters of the way into the book "The big question facing humans isn't 'what is the meaning of life?' but rather, 'how do we get out of suffering?"
Top reviews from other countries
It is a book of 21 essays on different subjects beginning with ‘Disillusionment’, ‘Work’, ‘Liberty’, and ‘Equality’ under Part I, entitled, ‘The Technological Challenge’. The book has a total of five Parts. The other four are: ‘The Political Challenge’, Despair and Hope’, Truth’, and ‘Resilience’.
Harari’s thoughts spring from the basic, but important question, ‘What can we say about the meaning of life today?’ In order to put the age-old question into the context of today, Harari examines the scientific and cultural changes that have transformed human societies across the world. One major change wrought by technology is the phenomenon in which we get increasingly distanced from our own bodies, and are being absorbed into smartphones and computers.
Harari shows how ‘benign patriotism’ can so easily be transformed into ultra-nationalism; form the belief that ‘My nation is unique’ (every nation is) to ‘My nation is supreme’. Once we get to that, war and strife is, frighteningly, just a step away. He devotes a chapter each to ‘immigration’ and ‘terrorism’ because these are the two bogeymen of the world – not just the Western world. Harari fears that when New York or London eventually sinks below the Atlantic Ocean, people will be blaming Bush, Blair and Obama for focussing on the wrong front.
Given the undertones of religious conflicts and differences in the wars that an American-led West had inflicted on various parts of the world, Harari had much to say in his chapters on ‘God’ and ‘Secularism’. He tries to show how irrational belief in a personal God is. ‘Science cannot explain the “Big Bang”, they exclaim, “so that must be God’s doing”…After giving the name of “God” to the unknown secrets of the cosmos, they then use this to somehow condemn bikinis and divorces’. Not to mention abortion, eating pork, and drinking beer. What does it mean ‘Not to use the name of God in vain’? Harari suggests that it should mean that ‘we should never use the name of God to justify our political interests, our economic ambitions or our personal hatred’. He exposes the problems of dogmatism, and warns against the illusion that the falsity in one’s creed or ideology will never be allowed to happen. ‘if you believe in an absolute truth revealed in a transcendent power’, he writes, ‘you cannot allow yourself to admit any error – for that would nullify your whole story. But if you believe in a quest for truth by fallible humans, admitting blunders is an inherent part of the game’.
Harari’s conclusion is a treat to read and has much to commend in the way he reconciles religious beliefs and rational thinking. Humans love story-telling, he writes, and the answers to the question, ‘what is the meaning of life?’ lie in the stories – but we do not have just one story each. And this is crucial. We not just a Muslim, or an Italian, or a capitalist. We do not have just one identity as a human. And we have many stories. We must not shut them out for the sake of one favourite.
People might argue that expectations should be low for a low price, but I say that the Big discounts displayed on products should also be according to similar quality stuff, and not the original publication.
The revolutions in biotech and infotech are made by engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists who are hardly aware of the political implications of their decisions…
Donald Trump warned voters that the Mexicans and Chinese will take their jobs, and that they should therefore build a wall on the Mexican border. He never warned voters that algorithms will take their jobs, nor did he suggest building a firewall on the border with California.
Humans have two abilities – physical and cognitive. The former have been partly supplemented by machines. Artificial Intelligence is challenging the latter…. Communism has no answer to automation, as the masses lose their economic value and become irrelevant.
Artificial Intelligence and human stupidity – if we concentrate too much on AI and not enough on human consciousness, AI will end up merely empowering the stupidity of humans.
Globalisation has resulted in growing inequality – the richest 100 own more than poorest 4 billion – and might in time lead to speciation. [People and species are opposite - species split, whereas people coalesce into larger groups, though mergers change.] Challenges are now supra-national – there are no national solutions to global warming. Nations have no answer to technological disruption. The nationalist wave [which he attributes in some measure to nostalgia] cannot turn the clock back to 1939 or 1914. Europe is a good example of supra-national solutions [he thinks Brexit is a bad idea]. Early humans faced problems which local tribes couldn’t handle (for example, Nile floods). Nowadays problems are supra-national.
Most stories are held together by the weight of their roof rather than by the strength of their foundations. Consider the Christian story. It has the flimsiest of foundations…. Yet enormous global institutions have been built on top of that story, and their weight presses down with such overwhelming force that they keep the story in place.
This is another intellectual tour de force from Harari, though as other reviewers have said it’s essential to have read the other two books first.
A note to Penguin and its imprints. Please stop printing with Replika. The quality of print is abysmal and this is the second such experience for me (Devlok 2). I know of others who have felt the same. If this continues, readers will complain in droves and/or stop buying your books printed with Replika. So change the quality of printing or the Press in question.
The book begins with a lot of detail about how collection and analysis of huge amounts of data and advances in technology will allow us to even re-engineer our bodies, and in particular our brains, to allow artificial intelligence to know what we are thinking in order for it to make better decisions for us. It goes on to speculate that robots could make huge numbers of people redundant and irrelevant, forcing people to change careers at an increasingly regular rate. There is then a lot of discussion about religion, in particular the author's own Jewish religion, and how fiction has played and continues to play a crucial role in life.
I enjoyed the book but if you are looking for life lessons to follow, then it probably isn't the book for you. If you want a glimpse into the (possible) future of the human race and a summary of how we got to the point we are at now, then this is something for you. It is certainly a very well-written book.